Persephone Poetry Books

Verity has written about Persephone’s wonderful non-fiction titles, but I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned the poetry yet.

There are two novels in verse: Lettice Delmer by Susan Miles and Amours de Voyage by Arthur Clough. Both look intriguing and are very definitely on my wishlist.

And then there are two collections of verse.

There’s Consider the Years by Virginia Graham, a wonderfully readable and evocative collection of verse about England between 1938 and 1945. Momentous years! I’m wending my way through the pages and I’ll write more when I’m done.

I’ve only flipped through It’s Hard to be Hip Over Thirty by Judith Viorst, but I can already see that it is a gem. It dates from the late 1960s and is a wonderful, frequently darkly comic, record of those times.

I’m disappointed that it’s one review on LibraryThing suggests that it is a volume that will date badly and soon disappear. My impression so far is that it succeeds in being both of its time and timeless.

Here is one poem that I think stands up wonderfully. In fact, it reminds me of a particular friend of my mother – she’s a lovely lady, but she has one particular trait …


Whatever happens to me
Has already happened to Ida the one who suffers,
Only worse,
And with complications,
And her surgeon says it’s a miracle she survived,
And her team of lawyers is suing for half a million,
And her druggist gave a gasp when he read the prescription,
And her husband never saw such courage,
Because (though it may sound like bragging) she’s not a complainer,
Which is why the nurse was delighted to carry her bedpan,
And her daughter flew in from the sit-in to visit,
And absolute strangers were begging to give blood donations,
And the man from Prudential even had tears in his eyes,
Because (though it may sound like bragging) everyone loves her,
Which is why both of her sisters were phoning on day rates from Denton,
And her specialist practically forced her to let him make house calls,
And the lady who lean insisted on coming in Sundays,
And the cousins have cancelled the Cousins Club meeting,
And she’s almost embarassed to mention how many presents
Keep arriving from girlfriends who love her all over the country,
All of them eating their hearts out with worry for Ida,
The one who suffers
The way other people

And finally, of course, there are the endpapers. These are based on a 1960s Liberty print, and they provide a wonderful burst of warmth and colour after the subtlety of the dove-grey jacket.

Viorst Endpapers

Persephone Reading Week is being hosted here and here.

5 responses

  1. I prefer the novel as literary form to short story or poetry but the novels in verse and the poetry collections by Persephone do appeal. I would like to own them all one day anyway.

    I enjoyed reading “Ida, the One Who Suffers”, thank you for posting it and isn’t the endpaper lovely?

    • Claire – I generally prefer novels, but I fing there are times when I want to read other forms. Persephone have picked their poetry well!

  2. I’ve got It’s Hard To Be Hip Over Thirty and absolutely love it. Maybe it’s because I write poetry myself and therefore am a bit more partial? It seems witty and original, two things which are never dated in my eyes.

    • Hello! I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum – completely uneducated in poetry – but Judith Viorst speaks to me and I shall be looking out for more of her work.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Ida was not in the original book I bought. When I was younger, and she wrote for New York Magazine, and I thought she knew my family. We are three generations further removed from steerage, and her poems are not only of their time. They are timeless. In fact, the poem floated into mind to describe someone at work. This Ida is not from New York, is not Jewish, but she always suffers through just a bit more than anybody else.

    I must see if there are other gems added to Ms. Viorst’s earlier books. Now I need to go out and find more recent editions of her books. Oy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: